Senator Patricia Bates' Veterans Bills Clear Senate Committees

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Two Senate committees today approved three bills by Senator Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel) that would enhance support of California’s military veterans. Two of those bills would provide tax relief and one would remedy an oversight concerning veterans clubs in state law.

“We can never fully repay the debt we owe to our veterans for their service, but the least we can do in the Legislature is ensure they receive the benefits and privileges they have earned,” said Bates. “My bills will help veterans with 100 percent disability keep their homes and allow local organizations to better serve their members.”

Senate Bill 1183 would provide a full property tax exemption to 100% disabled veterans and their spouses on their primary residence. Existing law provides a property tax exemption for the primary residence of a veteran or a veteran’s spouse, if the veteran became blind in both eyes, lost the use of two or more limbs or is totally disabled because of injury incurred during military service. However, existing law only exempts the first $100,000 of a residence’s value, or $150,000 if the veteran’s household income does not exceed $40,000.

The $100,000 to $150,000 cap is well below California’s average home value of $458,500. In counties with large numbers of veterans, such as Orange and San Diego, median home values are more than $640,000 and $540,000, respectively. In many cases, existing law only exempts a small portion of veterans’ home values, putting some 100% disabled veterans and their spouses in jeopardy of losing their homes.

Senate Bill 1458 is sponsored by Board of Equalization Member George Runner and would make California law consistent with federal law so that any veteran receiving service-connected disability benefits at 100% will be eligible to receive the state's disabled veterans' property tax exemption on their home. While some veterans have received a 100% disability rating from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, they are unable to qualify for California’s disabled veterans’ property tax exemption because they did not receive an Honorable Discharge, which California law requires.

Bates and numerous veterans groups believe a 100% disabled veteran should qualify for the state property tax exemption as long as they did not receive a dishonorable or bad conduct discharge, and if they qualify for existing federal disability compensation benefits.

Both SB 1458 and SB 1183 are supported by veterans organizations including: the American G. I. Forum of California; AMVETS-Department of California; American Legion-Department of California; California Association of County Veteran Service Officers; VFW-Department of California; and Vietnam Veterans of America, California State Council. The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee approved SB 1183 and 1458 on bipartisan votes.

Senate Bill 905 would authorize the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) to issue a club license to a nonprofit umbrella organization consisting of multiple veteran organizations established to provide a central meeting location, resources and services for veterans. The Senate Governmental Organization Committee approved SB 905 on a bipartisan vote.

Recent legislation that expanded the authority of a veterans’ club to serve and sell alcoholic beverages for consumption within the club premises inadvertently did not address nonprofit umbrella organizations such as the Veterans Association of North County (VANC) in San Diego. SB 905 would fix this oversight and make VANC and other similar associations eligible for the same privilege.

All three bills will go to the Senate Appropriations Committee for its consideration.